Update on Microsoft School of the Future

Three years have passed since the opening of Microsoft’s School of the Future in Philadelphia, a high-profile pilot project designed to kick urban education up a few notches with learning strategies from the corporate world. Two years have passed since we wrote about this daring initiative. Now–if education experts at a recent American Enterprise Institute panel discussion are to be believed–the experiment is showing signs of stagnation.

For one thing, the School of the Future has suffered from a lack of stability. It’s had four principals (“chief leaders”) in only three years, according to an eSchool News report, and some attempted school-community partnerships have gone belly-up. Meanwhile, students’ standardized test scores have been unimpressive to date, and in the midst of rapid administrative turnover, truancy rates have risen.

Still, Microsoft’s Mary Cullinane, who supervises the project, thinks it’s far too early to cry uncle. “To say this school is a failure is not correct. It’s only in its
third year, and innovation always takes time,” Cullinane told eSchool News. “We can’t use a short-term
yardstick for a long-term journey; shame on us if we give up so easily,
and so quickly.” Many educators will be watching, no doubt, to see if the much-vaunted School of the Future can turn things around.